New and Notable: 11/13 - 11/18

/ by Edit Staff /

Emotional genes, comic hero aggression and more.

Self-Image is Hard-Wired in Genome

Beauty is skin deep, but attitude goes all the way down to your DNA. Researchers from Saint Louis University’s School of Public Health found that your genes contribute more than one-third of your perception of mental and physical health. They separated external factors from inborn, genetic ones by questioning identical twins (who share all of their genes) and fraternal twins (who share, on average, half their genes). Twins’ attitudes about their self-image were then compared to their actual health. Said one of the researchers: “This is an attitude that is deeply rooted in their soul—not only their psychology but their biology.”
(source: Medical Care)

“Save me, Superman!”

Comic book characters become more aggressive in times of real-world social or economic threat, mirroring human emotion, according to a paper written by Bill Peterson, a Smith College psychology professor. “As an aspect of popular culture, comic books have always reflected the historical time period in which they were produced,” said Peterson.

Peterson “studied” Marvel comics written between 1978 and 1992 and noted relative sales increases for titles with unconventional heroes (X-Men, Daredevil) during periods of safety. Sales of more conventional hero-based titles (Captain America, Iron Man) remained flat over the same period.
(source: Political Psychology)

Keep on Crashin’

US truckers that drive for longer periods of time increase their accident risk, according to a group of Penn State civil engineers. “Our findings… establish a consistent pattern of increased crash risk with hours driving,” said one of the researchers. Truckers are three times more likely to crash in their now-legal 11th hour of driving than in their first hour. (The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extended the trucker’s workday from 10 hours to 11 hours in 2003.)

Previous research also showed that multi-day trips lasting longer than seven days resulted in similar danger.
(sources: Penn State, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

And the Rest…

  • Lemur named for Python: A long-legged but not-so-fierce creature was dubbed Avahi cleesei after comedian and lemur-lover John Cleese—no fishes named Wanda yet. (source: University of Zurich)
  • Beam-up for Scotty’s ashes is held up: AFP reported that engine trouble delayed the launch of spaceship Falcon 1 and, with it, the final-frontier jettison of Star Trek actor James Doohan’s remains. (source: AFP)
  • Cold causes colds: Ice-cold feet weaken nose defenses and wake dormant viruses, amplifying cold symptoms 300%; “cold feet” no longer threatening to just J.Lo. (source: Family Practice)
  • Roundabout efficiency: Safety researchers implored US road builders to “think roundabout” after concluding that traffic circles decrease delays, crashes, fuel consumption and, we hope, radio sing-alongs. (source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Earth’s fast-rising crust: A study of hafnium isotopes in ancient Australian rocks suggested the presence of a stable top layer and a habitable world almost 4.5 billion years ago. Anchovies came a few billion years later. (source: Science)
  • Decaf joe harms heart: Drinking three to six cups of caffeine-free coffee a day for three months increases blood levels of fatty acids, the precursors to bad cholesterol—but who drinks that much decaf? (source: American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2005)

Originally published November 18, 2005

Tags cognition genetics identity neuroscience

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